Saturday, October 18, 2008

1.1.2; 3.4.5: Sweet transgression

I have finished reading bell hooks's Teaching to transgress, and discovered an interesting perspective in a chapter she shares a dialogue with Ron Scapp. Ron is a philosopher and friend of hooks. He writes (1994, p.154):

Sometimes it's important to remind students that joy can be present along with hard work. Not every moment in the classroom will necessarily be one that brings you immediate pleasure, but that doesn't preclude the possibility of joy. Nor does it deny the reality that learning is painful. And sometimes it's necessary to remind students and [academic] colleagues that pain and painful situations don't necessarily translate into harm. We make that fundamental mistake all the time. Not all pain is harm, and not all all pleasure is good.

It is reassuring to see this admission – though hooks's work is certainly the sort where you would expect to encounter this type of honesty and critique. I find this quote useful comfort when participating in instructional design. In the College I serve, each credit of study is to be the equivalent of 10 hours' study. It is always difficult to judge how the 150 hours in any course should be planned. In E-Primer section 3.4.5 I address areas of student workload; often I have been uncomfortable with assigning workload to the 'max'. However Scapp is right. Often it's a case of 'no pain, no gain'. It is our responsibility as educators to stretch student thinking, to cause transformation.

But there's far more to this than just the quantity of work. What is discussed, and what is confronted during a course also need not be the sort of subject that might lead directly to amusement. Transformation can be all the more powerful through the painful realisation that one is biased, prejudiced, imperfect, judgemental, flawed, mortal. It is here that we must not get Scapp out of context; the remainder of hooks's work is about giving students their voice, establishing trust, negotiating meaning, and challenging perspectives.

So, what does this have to do with the 'e'? Plenty. As I point out in E-Primer section 1.1.2, e-learning is a means to an end that must fit within a particular educational framework. It is work such as hooks's, Mezirow's, Palmer's, Ramsden's that inspire me as an educator. E-learning literature helps me to take their rich ideas and implement them online; very seldom does e-learning work transform me in such a way.

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